Middle Age and Technology
Last weekend, I had an existential crisis. It was a turning point. We all have them, especially when we hit middle age. Do I hold on fiercely to all that I knew before, or do I adapt to current realities? Do I insist that the tea kettle with the duct tape, whistle that sounds like a bird being strangled, and scorch marks from 30 years ago is worth holding onto or do I buy a newfangled electric plug-in thingy that shuts off automatically and keeps my house from burning down? Do I continue to back up my laptop and workstation to thumb drives and external hard drives, or do I soar into the cloud?
I value pragmatism, but mine is exacerbated by an if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it mentality. I’ve restrained myself by waiting years to buy the latest gadget. You know, until all the bugs are worked out, the price drops, and everyone has stopped yammering on about it. And this is the good fortune I’ve sailed on – no catastrophic failures or unrecoverable data.
I don’t buy anything with an i in front of it, because I like to be able to change a #$ !@ battery myself without calling in a tech team. I like messing about with Android developer options and not dealing with proprietary, hamstringing restrictions. My Creative Zen MP3 player is ten years old and has been disassembled and reassembled numerous times. It still works and I use it every day. My workstation has been wonderfully stable with Windows 7 for years.
My unlocked LG smartphone was purchased on Amazon and I had to cut down the SIM card from my old phone to make it work. Over the years, I’ve learned how to hack and strip down bloatware on phones and computers. I’ve upgraded memory and added second drives. I’m not a whiz – I’m just not afraid of breaking things. And I know how to find instructions. My husband is a tech guy and is forbidden to touch my computers or phone. I like solving things myself.
So one would think that I’d not be so resistant to change. But this is where age comes in – resistance is growing. I can feel it. Maybe it’s the sheer exhaustion of the last twenty years, where technology has changed so quickly that one feels like it’s constantly adapt, adapt, adapt. There is a sense that consumerism is often driving “needs” for products more than actual need. And again, if you have a stable system that meets your needs, why upgrade?
I am reminded of my grandfather, who would have celebrated his birthday this month. He loved listening to Big Band music – Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller. He never cared for newer music. I think about that a lot – this idea that we get stuck in a certain time. A time when life felt simpler, when we remember being happy and carefree. Music is a strong trigger for memory. If I hear the J. Geils Band, I am reminded of summer nights, driving my Monte Carlo with the windows down. Until the tape cassette had to be turned over.
Sometimes I have that sort of nostalgia for technology. I miss my Nokia E73, a solid little phone with a physical button keyboard. It didn’t feel like plastic, didn’t require man hands to hold, and had a little notification light that blinked to let me know I had a message. I didn’t need or want internet – I just wanted my emails and phone messages.
As I’ve been stepping up my writing game, I’ve been getting in my own way. My redundancy system of syncing my laptop and workstation through USB drives and memory sticks has impeded my work mobility and makes me nervous that I’ll forget which system I need to sync to. Using Scrivener for my novels and Word for shorter pieces means I’m dealing with different file types and sometimes find myself writing novel scenes in Word, to be cut and pasted into Scrivener. This is all to say that my aging brain is prone to freaking itself out with anxiety that I’m going to delete large portions of my work.
This weekend, I upgraded my workstation to Windows 10, cursing every step of the way. The new approach to technology is to essentially take as much control out of the user’s hands as possible, forcing various forms of indentured servitude to tech companies. Some people delight in this carefree process. I do not. I have to spend the next month hunting up hacks for a zillion little things I hate. This is not to say it’s a bad system, but change itself is becoming something I don’t handle as well. And that depresses me a bit.
So now my work is in the cloud – backed up prodigiously on both laptop and computer, but automatically. My collection of USB sticks is just a pile of has-beens. And I’ll still do my weekly backup on an external drive. One would think I was safeguarding Facebook data or something. Only, of course, in a way that actually has some safeguards.
Change is difficult. Technological change, doubly so. But I know it isn’t going to end and I have to break down my natural resistance to change in order to not become as defunct and useless as a tape cassette.